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BlackBerry Torch 9860

Maybe the BlackBerry Torch 9860 doesn't fully realize it yet, but the survival of its manufacturer, Research in Motion (RIM), rests on its 62mm shoulders. Okay, maybe that was a bit dramatic, but it's clear that it is with the 9860 that RIM wants to broaden its brand's appeal. The Torch 9860 has the biggest screen of any BlackBerry smartphone and it eschews a physical keypad for a virtual one – this from a company that drew legions to its fold with the perfect tactile response of its QWERTY keypads.

Looks

In terms of looks, the Torch 9860 is very different from most of its siblings and, at the same time, resembles, in a way, many of its rivals. This is all because of its 3.7-inch touchscreen which is not found on other BlackBerrys but is not unusual when it comes to the smartphone market as a whole. It's a bit thicker than many touchscreen handsets out there, but not really bulky that it would be a chore to lug it around. However, we didn't like the fact that its 4 physical buttons below the display seem to “pop out.” While these may be beneficial in using them without necessarily looking for them, it compromises the overall look of the device itself. It's no biggie, really, but we wish RIM instead placed touch-sensitive buttons on this one.

Multimedia

With its 3.7-inch screen, the Torch 9860 has obvious multimedia aspirations, and for the most part, it doesn't disappoint. The camera is 5MP, the smallest acceptable resolution nowadays for any phone in the premium segment. The camera focuses and takes photos very quickly, almost instantaneously, noticeably quicker than an iPhone 4. With 16M colors to show on its 480 x 800 pixel screen, photos look very clear and vivid. The shooter is more than enough for social networking photos or capturing slices of life, which is what most of us need cameras for anyway.  

The Torch 9860 also acquits itself when it comes to video. It can play an amazing assortment of formats: divx, xvid, mp4, avi and mov files play effortlessly – just make sure the bitrates aren't too high. Take that, Apple! In the same way, almost any music file you can think of can be played by the Torch 9860's built-in music app. And thanks to the microSD memory expandable up to 32GB (assuming you know where to find microSD cards that big), it's unlikely you will run out of storage to keep yourself entertained. Just be sure to keep the screen clean, it smudges very easily. Perhaps in acknowledgement of this, BlackBerry bundles a screen cleaner with the phone.

Communication and social-networking

So it works as a multimedia device, how is it as a business phone (which is, you know, what a BlackBerry is supposed to be)? The good news is the Torch 9860, in terms of software at least, loses none of the usefulness and functionality that made it a legend in the business community – long before celebrities and “personalities” used it to tweet updates. Calls, SMS, e-mail and its proprietary BBM system are handled with aplomb.

When a message or e-mail comes in, the addictive blinking red dot comes alive. It pulses with an urgency that compels you to press the unlock button right away. The screen comes to life, you click on the message icon, and you're connected with humanity. In other words, if you want messaging, whether it be traditional SMS or the newer Twitter and Facebook methods, the Torch 9860 will be a powerful tool for you. One way the handset's software enhances your social life is by integrating the aforementioned social networking sites, e-mail, SMS and BBM into an app called Social Feeds.

Click here to check out the BlackBerry Torch 9860 in the Buyer's Guide

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